Documents considered by the Committee on 17 October 2018 Contents

1European Territorial Cooperation (Interreg)

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

Document details

(a) Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on a mechanism to resolve legal and administrative obstacles in a cross-border context; (b) Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on specific provisions for the European territorial cooperation goal (Interreg) supported by the European Regional Development Fund and external financing instruments

Legal base

(a) Article 175 TFEU, Ordinary legislative procedure, QMV (b) Articles 178, 209(1), 212(2) and 349 TFEU, Ordinary legislative procedure, QMV

Department

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Document Numbers

(a) (39809), 9555/18, COM(18) 373; (b) (39811), 9536/18 + ADD 1, COM(18) 374

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

1.1The European Territorial Cooperation (ETC) goal of the EU structural funds (otherwise known as “Interreg”—inter-regional cooperation) is a long-established strand of the EU structural funds, designed to promote regional cooperation across borders within the EU. It includes the PEACE Programme, specifically designed to support cooperation across the Irish border.

1.2The European Commission has proposed a new framework for the period 2021–27 (document (b)) as well as a voluntary mechanism (document (a)) to help resolve obstacles created by conflicting legal and administrative rules affecting a cross-border region.

1.3We first considered these documents at our meeting of 5 September 2018,1 noting that the Interreg proposal is of particular significance to Northern Ireland. We sought greater clarity concerning future UK participation. We also welcomed further analysis from the Government on the proposed arrangement for third country involvement and what amendments, if any, the UK might propose. On the proposed mechanism to resolve legal and administrative obstacles in a cross-border context, we asked whether it could in principle apply to the Irish border and whether it could indeed be helpful.

1.4The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Lord Henley) has responded2 to the Committee’s queries. He says that negotiations are progressing well and that the Government is confident of a deal on these proposals during the autumn.

1.5The Minister draws attention to the further commitment made to the future PEACE PLUS programme in paragraph 24 of the White Paper on the future relationship between the UK and the EU.3 It stated that the UK remains committed to delivering a future PEACE programme to sustain vital work on reconciliation and a shared future in Northern Ireland. The White Paper also set out the UK’s commitment to finalising the framework for this programme jointly over the coming months. Officials will be working with Northern Ireland, Ireland and the European Commission on the detail of the proposed programme over the coming months. This includes clarification on arrangements for third country participation.

1.6The Minister adds that it is important that the unique arrangements governing the PEACE and Interreg programmes, set out in the North/South Co-operation (Implementation Bodies) (Northern Ireland) Order 1999 and the British-Irish Agreement Act 1999 respectively, are respected. This includes the process for agreeing the priorities for the new programmes. It is also important, he says, to ensure that the roles afforded to the North South Ministerial Council and relevant departments in Northern Ireland and Ireland are respected.

1.7On the proposed new mechanism to resolve legal and administrative obstacles in a cross-border context (document (a)), the Minister confirms that it could, in principle, apply to the Irish border, for example in the context of PEACE PLUS. He notes that the mechanism does not exclude Member States from using existing methods to resolving legal obstacles. Further work is required, says the Minister, to assess the impact of this proposal on the UK, particularly from the perspective of EU Exit. More information and clarity on this proposal should become available as EU-wide negotiations over proposals develop.

1.8We welcome the clarification provided by the Minister and note both that the Government is engaging positively in the negotiations on both of these proposals and that a deal on the proposals is expected soon. With that in mind, we ask for an update as soon as there is greater clarity on the emerging shape of a deal, and well in advance of agreement in Council. The proposals remain under scrutiny and we draw this chapter to the attention of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.

Full details of the documents:

(a) Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on a mechanism to resolve legal and administrative obstacles in a cross-border context: (39809), 9555/18, COM(18) 373;

(b) Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on specific provisions for the European territorial cooperation goal (Interreg) supported by the European Regional Development Fund and external financing instruments: (39811), 9536/18 + ADD 1, COM(18) 374.

Previous Committee Reports

Thirty-seventh Report HC 301–xxxvi (2017–19), chapter 3 (5 September 2018).


1 Thirty-seventh Report HC 301–xxxvi (2017–19), chapter 3 (5 September 2018).

2 Letter from Lord Henley to Sir William Cash, dated 13 September 2018.

3 “The future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union”, Department for Exiting the European Union, 12 July 2018.




Published: 23 October 2018